UCU ballots: Vote Yes-Yes

Submitted by AWL on 27 October, 2021 - 12:20
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The University and College Union (UCU) is balloting staff across UK higher education for strike action in two parallel disputes.

The national “Four Fights” campaign is calling for action to address gender, ethnic and disability pay gaps, end contract casualisation and job insecurity, tackle rising workloads, and for a pay increase of £2,500 on every point of the national pay scale.

Over the last two years pay rises have been just 1.5%, a real-terms cut. Between 2009 and 2019 salaries had already fallen by 17.6% in real terms.

Systematic casualisation means around half of teaching-only staff and 68% of researchers are employed on fixed-term contracts.

Workloads are soaring, with the average working week for an academic over fifty hours.

In the older “pre-92” universities there is a parallel dispute on pensions. The USS scheme has already been cut substantially, leading to a lifetime loss of around £240,000 for the typical staff member.

Now new cuts of around 20-25% are proposed, based on a valuation of the scheme undertaken at the height of the first Covid wave, when the value of investments had collapsed

UCU is calling for a new valuation as well as for employers to pay a larger share. The proportion of university income spent on staff has declined in the past five years: the funds are there.

Both ballots are being run on a disaggregated basis, meaning every workplace that achieves over 50% turnout can strike or take action short. Previous national action over USS pushed back the employers’ worst proposals, while strikes at Liverpool University this summer defeated a management plan for 47 compulsory redundancies. The ballots close on 4 November. Vote Yes to strikes, Yes to action short.

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